That brittle cheerfulness which holds us together in a place were otherwise our emotions would be naked, guarded me from all but the most perceptive gaze. Knowing looks came from the dispossesed, the isolated and a man on the brink of ruin. All normal lives flowed by: their questions wraped in expensive scarves or held tightly in smart brown briefcases : gaze firmly fixed on their destinations. Life was normal, but by the barest margin.
My mother, God bless her had decided to become a nun and vanished inside a convent. That phrase, “When all is lost you can always come home” haunted me. There was no safety net. The bedsitter were I had been placed was bare of pictures and without a single memory or artifact to celebrate the joy of life. A single bed, small table and and a sink which sloped away from the plughole so that you had to scoop the water up to empty it were the only facilities I had. Friendship was absent. We had moved to London not long before the change and left my social life behind. There was no phones and mobiles were still in the realms of science fiction. Saving me was a lack of awareness of where I was. I was too young to know anything different. Barely eighteen
At work I was more of a barbarian than an employee. Polite, kindly but without any network and the dimmest idea of my responsibilities I blundered through each day with a cheery vacancy amusing those around me with a disconnected sense of the absurd. I took to reading whatever I could afford to buy and discovered that a visit to the cinema was cheaper than sitting in my room feeding the electric metre with coins. I would smuggle my fish and chips in with me and sit eating while the film of the day scrolled on before me.
The months eked by. Each day I left work and travelled home to my oddness. Further travel was unaffordable so any social invitations went by the board. Hunched up against the world I was without agenda or plan, living day by day and , no doubt, presenting an image of eccentricity to my colleagues
Into this world wandered a cousin who had been a great friend in my childhood, now starting university in London. An outsider like myself We teamed up to try to explain the anxieties and opportunities of youth. His friendship warmed my world and placed a light in the room where only twilight reigned. Through his companionship and positive thoughts about my potential I began to take stock of this world. Finally, I said to myself, “There has to be more than this.” His interest in me gave me the power to re-examine myself. Never doubt the power of friendship. The love of others saved me from my past